12/01/2010 03:53 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Black Swan : Nightmare in a Tutu

Much will be written about Black Swan, a movie that viewers will either love or hate for its melding of a ballerina story with classic horror motifs. What saves Darren Aronofsky's study in female masochism from descending into schlock gothic? The performances are superb, with ample ballet sequences. But a shard of broken mirror in this story is to a piece of glass in Haneke's The Piano Teacher, a lethal weapon. I was stunned when I first saw the film at the Hamptons International Film Festival, in a theater where you could hear the proverbial pin drop, and equally stunned upon second viewing last night at the Ziegfeld premiere, where a few titters registered that some were not as awed as I was by the movie's extravagant emotion.

You may imagine that the finale, the dying of the dancing swan, metaphoric for a girl's loss of virginity, a figment of a girl's warped mind, or just plain old death, would be a mother's worst nightmare, but so is the mother-daughter relationship at the movie's heart. This horror, over-wrought yet persuasive in characters portrayed by Barbara Hershey and Natalie Portman is an unsettling wacky mirror itself, as is the ballet master charming and cruel as played by Vincent Cassell, also fine as a scoundrel in the French import Mesrine.

A lavish party ensued at the St. Regis, with a smorgasbord of pastas, the perfect dancer fuel, and a life-sized mannequin in tutu and swan feather headgear, legs akimbo, rotating eerily around an axis. The actor Jean Reno reunited with Portman now in a ruby Dior gown, so many years after they worked together -- she a child -- in The Professional. Mila Kunis who had removed her Louboutins for hotel slippers said she had no training as a dancer before she was tapped to play this breakthrough role as Portman's friend/lover/rival. One question on many men's lips was for Vincent Cassell who attended the premiere with his mother: where's Monica?

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